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When Mary and I converted our flat roof carport into our home office spaces, we upgraded our electrical system. Originally a cartridge and screw-in fuse box, we installed a 200-amp outdoor panel (main breaker and 12 spaces) and a 32 space interior sub-panel. While the old panel had only 12 spaces to begin with, the new offices took up at least that many breakers. We had power to spare, and have plenty of room on the main panel for expansion.

Panelboards Are Getting Smarter All the Time

Steve Maurer, IME
When Mary and I converted our flat roof carport into our home office spaces, we upgraded our electrical system. Originally a cartridge and screw-in fuse box, we installed a 200-amp outdoor panel (main breaker and 12 spaces) and a 32 space interior sub-panel.

While the old panel had only 12 spaces to begin with, the new offices took up at least that many breakers. We had power to spare, and have plenty of room on the main panel for expansion.

We took a load off the existing circuits by reconfiguring the house wiring. I did all the wiring myself, running new conductors with a better layout (that was a LONG summer, to be sure).

While that was a smart move, new commercial/industrial panelboards and panelboard upgrades are even smarter.

Here's how to add intelligence to your lighting and plug circuits.

Put the panelboard on the network for better energy efficiency
Yeah, I said network.

Some panelboards—like Schneider Electric's MVP series (Management and Verification Panelboard)—can do that using the Modbus™ RTU protocol. The breakers are monitored using RS485 connections with a selectable baud rate.

And don't worry … the connections are rated CAT III to ensure compliance with industrial standards. The input voltage runs the gamut from 140-480 VAC, line to line, to 90-277 VAC, line to neutral.

Using a computer software program and a laptop, you can monitor and record energy consumption continuously, or just for peak or off-peak loads.

When monitoring lighting or plug circuits, it's possible to actually shut off breakers remotely. No making rounds to each panel and killing the power manually.

Of course, you can get this type of panelboard set up as a factory built model. But what if you've already got panelboards installed? Changing them out would be both time-consuming and expensive.
No worries, panel master of the universe.

Some companies manufacture retrofit kits that are quick and simple to install. For example, the Schneider Electric MVP-R series is designed specifically to replace the guts for many other brands or models.

Because these units use wraparound CTs for monitoring, you don't need to rewire everything.
Not quite plug-n-play … but darn near close!

Cut energy costs by up to 30%
We're all into saving operating costs by as much as possible. Cutting down on electrical consumption is one of the best, often with the quickest ROI.

On your next install, you might want to consider using smart panelboards to monitor and control electrical costs.

And if you've already got your panelboards installed … consider teaching them a thing or two about energy savings.

Install a retrofit kit.
Photo courtesy of Schneider Electric
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